June 5, 2023
Building a more equitable Downtown

Downtown BOOST Program

Downtown BOOST Program presented by Guinness Open Gate Brewery and supported by BGE  is an initiative created to support the long-term success of creative, Black-owned Baltimore businesses in Downtown storefronts. Scroll down to learn more about the program and how to apply.

Stay tuned for Round Two Recipient announcements! June 2023

Apply For BOOST Class Of 2023 BOOST Overview Document
Bottom Line

By supporting innovative Black-owned businesses, this initiative will address historical and contemporary racial inequities while fostering a more dynamic, safe and vibrant downtown.

Apply for the current round of BOOST, or prepare for the future.

Program Application Materials


BOOST Overview Document

This document includes the Program Guidelines with detailed eligibility information, process, timelines, and Frequently Asked Questions. As well as the full Storefront Brochure that includes more information on the available retail spaces.

BOOST Overview Document

BOOST 2023 Information Session

Get more information on the BOOST Program from Downtown Partnership Business Development staff.

BOOST Information Session

2023 Business Plan Workshop

Learn more about creating a successful business plan with the Maryland Small Business Development Center.

2023 Business Plan Workshop

2023 Business Plan Materials

Here you will find documents & materials for the 2023 Business Plan Workshop.

Business Plan Materials

2023 Business Financials Workshop

Learn more about creating a complete business financial plan with Baltimore Community Lending.

2023 Boost Financials Workshop

2023 Financial Plan Materials

Here you will find documents & materials for the 2023 Financial Plan Workshop.

Financial Plan Materials

The Who

The Downtown BOOST Program is seeking entrepreneurs that…

  1. Present a strong business plan—Applicants should demonstrate in their application they can successfully execute their concept, as evidenced by financial performance, employment levels, and capital reserves.
  2. Create a broad community impact—Priority will be given to businesses that seek to cross-pollinate with other businesses Downtown and provide signature experiences for both local residents and visitors.
  3. Have original ideas—Businesses must be creative and unique for Downtown Baltimore. Priority will be given to businesses that offer services or products that do not exist anywhere else in Baltimore.
  4. Support Downtown Baltimore’s recovery—Applicants should demonstrate in their application how their store will increase local foot traffic and attract new customers to Downtown Baltimore in the post-COVID economy.

The What

If selected to be a part of the BOOST Program, you will receive…

  • Up to $50,000 in grants to support build-out and operations: Up to $20,000 toward the interior improvements of the retail space, up to $10,000 for exterior improvements and signage, and $20,000 BGE Energizing Small Business Grants. (BOOST grant recipients will also need to apply and qualify for BGE’s Grant Program but will be given priority consideration).
  • An affordable lease at one of 5 storefronts listed in the BOOST Storefront Brochure
  • Robust technical, legal, marketing, zoning and permitting, and accounting support from local partners!

The Why

As in the rest of the country, storefront vacancies have increased in Downtown Baltimore due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Black-owned small business have been most at-risk for closure, and have historically had less access to capital. Additionally, targeted business incentives will ensure Downtown Baltimore’s retail sector has a swift and equitable recovery in 2021.


In order to qualify for the Downtown BOOST Program applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements.

  • Retail businesses that that have been operational and registered with the state of Maryland for at least 1 year, with preference for applicants of color
  • Applicants should currently employ at least 2 employees.
  • Qualifying retail businesses includes any small business that will operate an open, activated storefront in which goods and services are exchanged, including: include food and beverage establishments, clothing stores, markets, and specialty retailers.
  • Businesses should be currently operating in the Greater Baltimore area, with priority given to those based in Baltimore City.

Current Program Timeline

February 6 – Official Launch, Online Application Available

February 13 – BOOST Informational Webinar w/ DPOB Staff

February 15 & 17 – Online Business Plan Workshop & Financials Webinar

March 13 @ 10AM – BOOST Storefront Tours

March 31 @ 5PM – Application Deadline

June 2023 – Announcement of Program Winners

Sponsors & Partners

BOOST is Sponsored by Guinness Open Gate Brewery and supported by BGE. It is also supported by Baltimore Community Lending, Gross Mendelsohn, Real Projectives, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP, Maryland Small Business Development Center, the Small Business Resource Center and Trout Daniel & Associates.

These Creative Businesses Stood Out from the Rest

The BOOST Class of 2021

The Black Genius Art Show

The Black Genius Art Show is multi-media creative space and fashion brand owned by Bryan Robinson.


Robinson is an educator and multifaceted media artist born, raised and superhero’d in Baltimore Maryland. Under the motto “Create Everyday,”  Robinson has created hundreds of original illustrations, a collection of garments based off of his unique characters, and has an assortment of animated projects coming down the pipeline. Robinson currently works with school based programs, universities, youth groups, galleries, art initiatives and community based organizations throughout the state. Through BOOST, Robinson will be opening a Gallery space called Genius Guice Studios in Downtown Baltimore, a fully functional art house with amenities. A one stop shop to see, wear, create and experience art. NOW OPEN: 106 N. Eutaw Street


Website | Instagram | Facebook 

Codetta Bake Shop

Codetta Bake Shop is a café and bakery specializing in creative desert items owned by Sumayyah Bilal and Christopher Burgess.


As a bakery, Codetta specializes in traditional American-style desserts such as cheesecake, cupcakes, buttercream cakes, ice cream, and other delicious treats. Through BOOST, Codetta is expanding to a full service eatery serving breakfast, lunch, and brunch. Their menu will consist of a combination of sweet and savory items made with high quality ingredients and expert cooking techniques, available for purchase by the local weekday workforce as well as weekend brunch clientele. Codetta is hoping to become a touchstone of service, atmosphere, and high quality food for the
Downtown Baltimore community.


Website | Instagram | Facebook

Elite Secrets Bridal

Elite Secrets Bridal is a bridal design house and boutique owned by LaTonya Turnage.


Elite Secrets Bridal was founded in 2015 with a goal to change the bridal industry. Elite Secrets storefront is currently located in Baltimore’s esteemed Mount Vernon fashion boutique district. Founder LaTonya Turnage has been fundamental to company philosophy, through a combination of expertise and excellent service with style and grace. Elite Secrets leaves pretense to the side, focusing on bringing the best designers and emerging bridal gowns from all over the world to Baltimore Brides. Through BOOST, Elite secrets will open a second location that specializes in showcasing local bridal designers. NOW OPEN: 100 N. Charles Street


Website | Instagram | Facebook

Media Rhythm Institute

Media Rhythm Institute is a hip-hop-inspired media space with a café and educational studio owned by Deverick Murray, Jimmie Thomas, and Tiffany Welch.


As an educational incubator, Media Rhythm Institute develops the next generation of media and entertainment industry professionals through STEAM-based workforce training, academic achievement and industry opportunities. Through BOOST, MRI plans to open a centralized creative entrepreneurial hub for emerging artists. Focusing on music, media, and wellness, this creative mixed use space will highlights local art through a retail, production, and performance lens. NOW OPEN: 20 N. Howard Street


Website | Instagram | Facebook


NKVSKIN is a natural beauty company featuring both products and services owned by Nikia Vaughan.


This direct to consumer natural beauty brand offers a complete line of facial skincare products to improve the skin’s appearance and treat common concerns such as acne, hyperpigmentation, and eczema. The Company started in 2018 with a simple facial oil product and has since grown and matured both its product line and skincare educational program. Founder Nikia Vaughan is a recognized servant leader and community advocate with a natural skincare certification and an anticipated 2021 esthetician license. Through BOOST, NKVSKIN will open up a retail location Downtown. NOW OPEN: 113 N. Charles Street


Website | Instagram | Facebook

BOOST in the News

Midday with Tom Hall (WYPR)

“We’re happy to welcome back to the show Shelonda Stokes, the president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, to talk about the BOOST Program for African American retailers… She joins us on Zoom along with two entrepreneurs who are benefiting from the BOOST program: Bryan Robinson is the arts space proprietor of The Black Genius Art Show. LaTonya Turnage is the founding owner of Elite Secrets Bridal Boutique.”

Listen Now
BOOST in the News

Ebony Magazine

“In Baltimore, a new program is paving the way for entrepreneurs to attract and uplift Black-owned retail businesses in Downtown Baltimore neighborhoods. With support from Downtown Partnership of Baltimore’s (DPOB) Black-Owned & Occupied Storefront Tenancy Program (BOOST) program, led by Shelonda Stokes, president of DPOB. The first of its kind, BOOST’s purpose is to strengthen and revitalize the Central Business District of Baltimore by supporting small, creative Black-owned retail businesses and arm them with expert resources to set them up for success.”

— Jenn Barthole of Ebony Magazine

Read More
Press event for Downtown BOOST Program: Presented by Fearless featuring Shelonda Stokes, Mayor Brandon Scott, Delali Dzirasa, Councilman Eric Costello, Lou Kousoris, Council President Nick Mosby, and more.
BOOST in the News

Media Rhythm Institute in BBJ

“Media Rhythm Institute’s new space will help prepare young creatives entering the media industry.


Media Rhythm Institute is seeking to change the landscape for aspiring media industry professionals through comprehensive arts education.”


— Alicia Diaz at Baltimore Business Journal

Read More
BOOST in the News

Black Genius Art Show in BBJ

“Bryan Robinson formed his creative brainchild, The Black Genius Art Show,so people could experience his art by buying custom paintings or apparel. The East Baltimore native now wants to expand his vision and create a physical space for fellow local artists to run shows, while he mentors and curates.”


— Alicia Diaz at Baltimore Business Journal

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Black Genius art Show storefront space in Downtown Baltimore.
BOOST in the News

BOOST Winner Announcement

“Five entrepreneurs have been selected to take part in a new incubator program designed to fill empty downtown retail spaces with Black-owned businesses.”


— Ed Gunts at Baltimore Fishbowl

Read More
LaTonya Turnage, of Elite Secrets Bridal, A Downtown BOOST program awardee.
BOOST in the News

BOOST in Baltimore Sun

“With an eye toward increasing Black-owned retail businesses in downtown Baltimore, the Downtown Partnership is launching an initiative that will pair creative Black businesses with vacant storefronts, and connect them with technical, marketing and other expertise.”



Read More
Shelonda Stokes at Downtown Partnership